As we celebrate the inauguration of Amherst’s newest president, the community marks the occasion with gifts and apparel that are filled with meaning and history.


Much of what is associated with the dress of academic pageantry dates back to medieval Europe, when gowns and hoods were the primary attire in educated monastic circles. As Amherst’s president, Biddy Martin wears a black doctoral robe bearing four velvet chevrons upon the sleeves, colored purple to represent Amherst. Regalia—including gowns, hoods and caps—are often colored according to one’s field of study or school. Martin’s cap is an eight-sided doctoral tam, and she wears a doctoral hood of white and purple satin trimmed in purple velvet, draped over the shoulders and affixed to the robe.

Honorary Master’s Degree and Hood

Dean of the Faculty Gregory S. Call gives Martin an honorary master’s degree to signify that she has been awarded tenure at Amherst College. Wako Tawa, faculty marshal, professor of Asian languages and civilizations and director of language study, presents Martin with a master’s hood trimmed in white, complementing and representing this degree.


Jide J. Zeitlin ’85, chair of the Board of Trustees, presents a copy of Amherst College’s charter. First drafted in 1824, granted in 1825 and amended 12 times, the charter outlines the governance of the college and the responsibilities of its caretakers.


Suzette Farnham, chair of the Employee Council and academic coordinator for the college’s Department of Music, presents Martin with the keys to the college: four large brass skeleton keys secured to a ring, which is tied with a ribbon of purple and white.

Conway Canes

The college is inaugurating a new tradition. This first Conway Cane bears a distinctive brass plate featuring the college’s seal and will be presented by Kelly Close ’90, chair of the Executive Committee of the Alumni Council.

This new college symbol is inspired by the presenting of Class Canes, a 19th-century tradition that was, in turn, revived and reshaped by the Class of 2003 to celebrate class unity and spirit. Conway Canes are now given to all Amherst seniors to mark their graduation from Amherst and to serve as a tangible connection to their class, to a unique tradition at Amherst and to their alma mater. The canes are a gift from an endowed Fund for Conway Canes created by Brian J. Conway ’80 and Kevin J. Conway ’80.

Student Government Resolution

Romen Borsellino ’12, president of the Association of Amherst Students, presents Martin with an official resolution welcoming her to Amherst College, acknowledging her successes in academia and her historic step as the college’s first female president.


Michael Witmore, director of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., presents a gift to Martin in honor of Amherst College’s relationship with the research library. The library was established by Henry Clay Folger of the Class of 1879 and his wife, Emily Jordan Folger, and is administered by the Trustees of Amherst College.